Essay On Speech Critique

The first thing that I noticed in my introduction is that I need a better attention grabber. It was good, but there is definitely a better way to get the audience’s attention. The biggest thing in my speech that I noticed the most was the eye contact. I tend to look down at my notecards a lot. I review my speech over and over again before I give it, and almost memorize it, but it is my worst fear to speak in front of people so that is why I look down at my cards so much. Also, I have my cards too close to my face. The second thing that caught my attention while watching myself was that I need to have more gestures with my hands. Having a little bit more mobility with my hands will put more emphasis on the things that I am trying to say to the audience. The power point that I made was simple, but I feel like it got the points across and corresponded with my speech. I thought my tone throughout the speech was good. I feel like my tone of voice is very personable with the audience and not too soft or loud. Another thing that I thought I did well was pausing. I let my information sink in with the audience with a pause.

I tend to use a lot of head movement when I’m speaking, and it is distracting to the audience. I used some humor in my speech by giving funny pictures and saying some things in my speech that made the audience laugh. I gave some time to let the humor set in with a pause and then proceeded to go on with my speech, so I thought that I used humor in my speech pretty well. My speech needs to be more conversational. When I watched myself speak, it seemed like I was reading it a little bit. With a more conversational way of speaking, you can attach yourself to the audience rather than reading your speech. Saying that, when I was speaking I was standing with good posture and speaking with a good tone. Even though I may have not been speaking conversationally, I think that my posture made up for it a little bit because I stood confidently even though on the inside I was nervous.

Next time, I want to improve my speech immensely. A lot of the things that I did wrong were because I was so nervous. If I can settle my nerves a little
bit before I speak, things like stuttering, vocal fillers, hand gestures, and eye contact will improve because I will be speaking more confidently. Being so critical of myself, I think that I did better than I’m giving myself credit for, but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement for my next speech. If I can settle myself before I speak and tell myself that I’m going to do well, I think that my speech will be much better next time.

Studying other speakers is a critical skill, one of the 25 essential skills for a public speaker. The ability to analyze a speech will accelerate the growth of any speaker.

The Speech Analysis Series is a series of articles examining different aspects of presentation analysis. You will learn how to study a speech and how to deliver an effective speech evaluation. Later articles will examine Toastmasters evaluation contests and speech evaluation forms and resources.

The first in the series, this article outlines questions to ask yourself when assessing a presentation. Ask these questions whether you attend the presentation, or whether you view a video or read the speech text. These questions also apply when you conduct a self evaluation of your own speeches.

The Most Important Thing to Analyze: The Speech Objectives

Knowing the speaker’s objective is critical to analyzing the speech, and should certainly influence how you study it.

  • What is the speaker’s goal? Is it to educate, to motivate, to persuade, or to entertain?
  • What is the primary message being delivered?
  • Why is this person delivering this speech? Are they the right person?
  • Was the objective achieved?

The Audience and Context for the Speech

A speaker will need to use different techniques to connect with an audience of 1500 than they would with an audience of 15. Similarly, different techniques will be applied when communicating with teenagers as opposed to communicating with corporate leaders.

  • Where and when is the speech being delivered?
  • What are the key demographic features of the audience? Technical? Students? Elderly? Athletes? Business leaders?
  • How large is the audience?
  • In addition to the live audience, is there an external target audience? (e.g. on the Internet or mass media)

Speech Content and Structure

The content of the speech should be selected and organized to achieve the primary speech objective. Focus is important — extraneous information can weaken an otherwise effective argument.

Before the Speech

  • Were there other speakers before this one? Were their messages similar, opposed, or unrelated?
  • How was the speaker introduced? Was it appropriate?
  • Did the introduction establish why the audience should listen to this speaker with this topic at this time?
  • What body language was demonstrated by the speaker as they approached the speaking area? Body language at this moment will often indicate their level of confidence.

The Speech Opening

Due to the primacy effect, words, body language, and visuals in the speech opening are all critical to speaking success.

  • Was a hook used effectively to draw the audience into the speech? Or did the speaker open with a dry “It’s great to be here today.
  • Did the speech open with a story? A joke? A startling statistic? A controversial statement? A powerful visual?
  • Did the speech opening clearly establish the intent of the presentation?
  • Was the opening memorable?

The Speech Body

  • Was the presentation focused? i.e. Did all arguments, stories, anecdotes relate back to the primary objective?
  • Were examples or statistics provided to support the arguments?
  • Were metaphors and symbolism use to improve understanding?
  • Was the speech organized logically? Was it easy to follow?
  • Did the speaker bridge smoothly from one part of the presentation to the next?

The Speech Conclusion

Like the opening, the words, body language, and visuals in the speech conclusion are all critical to speaking success. This is due to the recency effect.

  • Was the conclusion concise?
  • Was the conclusion memorable?
  • If appropriate, was there a call-to-action?

Delivery Skills and Techniques

Delivery skills are like a gigantic toolbox — the best speakers know precisely when to use every tool and for what purpose.

Enthusiasm and Connection to the Audience

  • Was the speaker enthusiastic? How can you tell?
  • Was there audience interaction? Was it effective?
  • Was the message you– and we-focused, or was it I- and me-focused?

Humor

  • Was humor used?
  • Was it safe and appropriate given the audience?
  • Were appropriate pauses used before and after the punch lines, phrases, or words?
  • Was it relevant to the speech?

Visual Aids

  • Were they designed effectively?
  • Did they complement speech arguments?
  • Was the use of visual aids timed well with the speaker’s words?
  • Did they add energy to the presentation or remove it?
  • Were they simple and easy to understand?
  • Were they easy to see? e.g. large enough
  • Would an additional visual aid help to convey the message?

Use of Stage Area

  • Did the speaker make appropriate use of the speaking area?

Physical – Gestures and Eye Contact

  • Did the speaker’s posture display confidence and poise?
  • Were gestures natural, timely, and complementary?
  • Were gestures easy to see?
  • Does the speaker have any distracting mannerisms?
  • Was eye contact effective in connecting the speaker to the whole audience?

Vocal Variety

  • Was the speaker easy to hear?
  • Were loud and soft variations used appropriately?
  • Was the pace varied? Was it slow enough overall to be understandable?
  • Were pauses used to aid understandability, heighten excitement, or provide drama?

Language

  • Was the language appropriate for the audience?
  • Did the speaker articulate clearly?
  • Were sentences short and easy to understand?
  • Was technical jargon or unnecessarily complex language used?
  • What rhetorical devices were used? e.g. repetition, alliteration, the rule of three, etc.

Intangibles

Sometimes, a technically sound speech can still miss the mark. Likewise, technical deficiencies can sometimes be overcome to produce a must-see presentation. The intangibles are impossible to list, but here are a few questions to consider:

  • How did the speech make you feel?
  • Were you convinced?
  • Would you want to listen to this speaker again?
  • Were there any original ideas or techniques?

Next in the Speech Analysis Series

The next article in this series – The Art of Delivering Evaluations – examines how best to utilize speech evaluation skills as a teaching tool.

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Andrew Dlugan is the editor and founder of Six Minutes. He teaches courses, leads seminars, coaches speakers, and strives to avoid Suicide by PowerPoint. He is an award-winning public speaker and speech evaluator. Andrew is a father and husband who resides in British Columbia, Canada.

Google+: Andrew Dlugan

Twitter: @6minutes


Image credit: Cate by James Duncan Davidson (CC BY 2.0)

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